Remembering Peter Marzio


No mere words could ever pay tribute to Peter Marzio, who passed away in December. The dashing, dynamic director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, changed our art scene forever from his helm at the MFAH during a distinguished and extraordinary 28-year tenure, transforming the institution from a prominent regional museum serving the elite, white and wealthy to an important museum with an international reputation that truly is a place for all people. Patrician in bearing and an adept fund-raiser, Marzio was also at heart a populist who noted the shifting demographics of Houston and saw to it that the diverse communities of the city were reflected in the MFAH%26rsquo;s collections. In this aspect, he was an authentic visionary, carving out a world-class department of Latin American Art and new galleries for the Arts of Asia and the Arts of the Islamic World; manifesting a commitment to African-American art by giving a yes to bold shows such as %26ldquo;The Quilts of Gee%26rsquo;s Bend%26rdquo;; recognizing the importance of photography as one of the 20th and 21st centuries%26rsquo; most significant and seminal collecting fields; and establishing the Glassell School%26rsquo;s Core Program, which made Houston a breeding ground for international talents. He made it look easy, too, working seemingly effortlessly with trustees to erect the $100 million Beck Building, inspiring Caroline Wiess Law%26rsquo;s munificent $500 million bequest and laying the groundwork for a third building to house contemporary collections. And he only got better at his job, with some of his most exciting achievements coming this past year, with the opening of the Kilroy Center at Bayou Bend, which put a welcome face on the great American decorative arts collection; green-lighting the ignition of the dramatic gunpowder drawing by Cai Guo-Qiang for the new Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery; and showcasing stellar Latin American Art in Houston private collections sparked by the MFAH%26rsquo;s commitment to this field. He and wife Frances Marzio %26mdash; the MFAH%26rsquo;s Glassell Gold curator who has a passion and connoisseurship for the ancients and lost civilizations such as the Ife Kingdom of Nigeria %26mdash; were a graceful, golden couple. I consider it a privilege %26mdash; an often thrilling one %26mdash; to have covered art history as it unfolded at the MFAH. And as many curators shared on more than one occasion, no one ever wanted to leave his or her post, because working with Peter was a dream job. His understanding and grasp of art history was vast, and his ability to take a risk and say yes to acquisitions, exhibitions and big ideas was legendary. It is hoped that his example will continue to inspire the MFAH, its curators, a future director and our community.

Image: Peter C. Marzio, 1943 %26ndash; 2010

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Remembering Peter Marzio


No mere words could ever pay tribute to Peter Marzio, who passed away in December. The dashing, dynamic director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, changed our art scene forever from his helm at the MFAH during a distinguished and extraordinary 28-year tenure, transforming the institution from a prominent regional museum serving the elite, white and wealthy to an important museum with an international reputation that truly is a place for all people. Patrician in bearing and an adept fund-raiser, Marzio was also at heart a populist who noted the shifting demographics of Houston and saw to it that the diverse communities of the city were reflected in the MFAH%26rsquo;s collections. In this aspect, he was an authentic visionary, carving out a world-class department of Latin American Art and new galleries for the Arts of Asia and the Arts of the Islamic World; manifesting a commitment to African-American art by giving a yes to bold shows such as %26ldquo;The Quilts of Gee%26rsquo;s Bend%26rdquo;; recognizing the importance of photography as one of the 20th and 21st centuries%26rsquo; most significant and seminal collecting fields; and establishing the Glassell School%26rsquo;s Core Program, which made Houston a breeding ground for international talents. He made it look easy, too, working seemingly effortlessly with trustees to erect the $100 million Beck Building, inspiring Caroline Wiess Law%26rsquo;s munificent $500 million bequest and laying the groundwork for a third building to house contemporary collections. And he only got better at his job, with some of his most exciting achievements coming this past year, with the opening of the Kilroy Center at Bayou Bend, which put a welcome face on the great American decorative arts collection; green-lighting the ignition of the dramatic gunpowder drawing by Cai Guo-Qiang for the new Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery; and showcasing stellar Latin American Art in Houston private collections sparked by the MFAH%26rsquo;s commitment to this field. He and wife Frances Marzio %26mdash; the MFAH%26rsquo;s Glassell Gold curator who has a passion and connoisseurship for the ancients and lost civilizations such as the Ife Kingdom of Nigeria %26mdash; were a graceful, golden couple. I consider it a privilege %26mdash; an often thrilling one %26mdash; to have covered art history as it unfolded at the MFAH. And as many curators shared on more than one occasion, no one ever wanted to leave his or her post, because working with Peter was a dream job. His understanding and grasp of art history was vast, and his ability to take a risk and say yes to acquisitions, exhibitions and big ideas was legendary. It is hoped that his example will continue to inspire the MFAH, its curators, a future director and our community.

Image: Peter C. Marzio, 1943 %26ndash; 2010

Comments are closed.

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